Excessive Force Case Against Monterey County Sheriff Deputy Heats Up

This week, new developments emerged in a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Piccuta Law Group. The case is entitled Luciano Reyes v. County of Monterey and Greg Wise. The police excessive force lawsuit was filed in federal court for the Northern District of California. The case is before the Honorable Susan Van Keulen and designated matter # 5:18-CV-03935.

Recently, lead trial counsel, Charles Tony Piccuta, held a court-ordered conference with county counsel to discuss issues in the case. Piccuta and county counsel discussed what form of alternative dispute resolution the parties were willing to participate in. They also discussed what discovery would be necessary and the timing for completing certain aspects of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Monterey County Sheriff Deputy, Greg Wise, used excessive force on the firm’s client, Luciano Reyes, in July of 2016. On July 2, 2016, Reyes was the caretaker of a large rural property in South Monterey County. A neighbor had certain water rights to a natural spring on the property that he believed were being interfered with. That neighbor arranged to have Deputy Wise accompany him to the property.

Wise went to the neighbor’s home and met with him beforehand. Wise did so without a formal call for service. In other words, there was no call placed to the Sheriff’s Office or routed through dispatch as is standard operating procedure. Wise was summoned there because a friend of the neighbor knew Wise and called his personal cell phone and asked him to come. It turns out that Wise was friendly with the neighbor and had visited him at his residence before. Wise then made the decision to take the civil water dispute into his own hands when no crime had been committed.

The lawsuit alleges that Wise arrived at Reyes’ property infuriated and began yelling at him. While Reyes stood inside the gate to his property, Wise forced the property gate open and charged onto the property without a warrant. Wise drew his taser, snatched Reyes’ cell phone from him and violently twisted Reyes’ arm behind his back. Wise then forced Reyes to the ground. While Reyes was on the ground, Wise applied a wrist lock-control hold, pressed his knee into Reyes’ back and pressed his taser against Reyes’ forehead and neck.

Wise did not arrest Reyes on the scene. However, he requested that a copy of the police report be forwarded to the Monterey County District Attorney for review. Wise also requested a warrant complaint against Reyes for alleged violations of California Penal Code 148(a)(1)—obstructing/resisting a peace officer and 422(a)—criminal threats. No criminal charges were brought by the district attorney.

In an attempt to justify his wrongful conduct and excessive use of force, Wise wrote the following in his supplemental sheriff’s report: “I immediately saw a weed eater and other items in the back of his truck bed. I cannot recall exactly what was in the bed of his truck, but I felt the weed eater could be used as a weapon.” Apparently, Wise believed that Reyes could grab the weed eater, start it with the pull chain and attack him with it before he could draw his pistol and shoot him dead. Gardeners across California beware—apparently weed eaters are now considered dangerous weapons that will justify the extreme use of police force if you are near one.

As a result of the attack, Reyes injured his neck and the wrist that Wise applied the control hold on. Reyes underwent two wrist surgeries and had hardware installed. The lawsuit, filed by our Monterey civil rights attorneys, seeks to recover for those injuries. The damages sought include: “past and future disability, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, past and future mental, physical and emotional pain and suffering, future lost earnings and past and future reasonable and necessary medical care, treatment and services.”

The civil rights lawsuit, filed by the Piccuta Law Group, asserts both state and federal claims. The federal claim asserted is for excessive force and wrongful seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The claim is asserted through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The state law claims include: 1) violation of the Bane Act (California Civil Code § 52.1(b)) ; 2) violation of the Ralph Act (California Civil Code § 51.7) ; 3) assault; 4) battery; and 5) intentional infliction of emotional distress.

What makes this case especially interesting is that Wise had no business interjecting himself into a civil dispute. Our Monterey civil rights attorneys filed the lawsuit because they believed it was clear that Wise was trying to help out a friend. Wise was not upholding his duty to protect and serve. Instead, he was seeking to use his position of authority to wrongfully exert his influence over a dispute between neighbors. The firm’s client was guilty of no criminal act and was battered because he was involved in a civil dispute with a neighbor who Wise happened to know. We believe that this is a complete abuse of authority and the wrongful use of police power to serve a personal interest.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the client seeks damages in excess of 1 Million dollars. It also seeks additional damages to punish (punitive damages) Wise for his conduct and discourage him from committing other similar acts in the future.  The lawsuit demands a trial by jury and this case will be presented to a jury when it proceeds to trial.

Click the following link to read the actual lawsuit filed by our attorneys. Reyes v. County of Monterey and Wise Lawsuit

If you or a loved one has experienced excessive force or are a victim of law enforcement misconduct, contact the Piccuta Law Group today. Our Monterey civil rights attorneys regularly handle cases against police, sheriffs, highway patrolmen and other law enforcement officers. We have successfully handled civil rights cases throughout California. We have obtained significant results in these cases both by verdict and settlement. Contact us today for a free consultation.